What is biomimicry?
Biomimicry is the design and production of materials, structures and systems modeled on biological entities and processes. Biomimetic architecture seeks to apply nature's complex ways to human habitats. Since the term biomimicry was first coined in the early 1980s, it has assisted in the creation of one of the most adaptive and ecologically centered forms of architecture.
A varied field, biomimetic architecture seeks to study and imitate nature on three levels: the organism, its behavior or an entire ecosystem. While a building's facade may not appear to be organically inspired, its interior structure may be where the biomimicry is taking place.
The reasons for the rising popularity of biomimetic architecture are clear enough: Nature is experienced and efficient. Nature is the authority on survival, endurance and balance. Biomimetic architects see these qualities as critical to the designs of residential and commercial buildings in the current era of climate change, especially in the areas of energy efficiency, sustainability and zero-waste construction.
According to a 2021 United Nations-led report, building and construction spaces are responsible for 37% of energy-related carbon emissions globally. Biomimetic architects believe that designing architecture inspired by nature is a feasible and effective way for the countries of the world to reach their goal of drastically reducing carbon emissions by 2030. Thus, biomimetic architects can apply design principles of nature to address a number of environmental concerns.
Biomimicry examples in architecture
- Increasing energy efficiency
Eastgate Centre, a 333,000-square-foot office building in Harare, Zimbabwe, has become a well-known and successful example of biomimetic architecture. Despite not having a traditional air-conditioning system, the building stays cool year-round, thanks to cooling tunnels and chimneys inspired by the design of termite mounds. This design also led to reduced up-front and ongoing energy costs.
- Combating flooding
Miami sits at sea level and is increasingly at risk of flooding due to climate change. To help prevent damage to city infrastructure from flooding, a team from the Biomimicry Design Alliance came up with a portable system of tubes that can absorb, transport and redirect water away from buildings. The biomimetic design of this system was inspired by lymph vessels, the lungfish and the roots of the mangrove tree.
- Tackling food shortages
To assist in food production applications for urban agriculture, such as indoor vertical farms, container farms and greenhouses, NexLoop's AquaWeb system emulates plants such as mosses, lichens and ferns. These non-parasitic plants, which grow on the surface of other plants, wick moisture from the air and make that water accessible to neighboring organisms.
Similarly, AquaWeb absorbs atmospheric water, stores it and distributes it in an urban environment. AquaWeb draws from a number of biomimetic mechanisms, including how a spider web captures water, how an ice plant stores water and how a fungus moves water.
- Providing fresh water
By mimicking the ability of the Namib Desert beetle to capture water vapor from the air, Seawater Greenhouse designed a greenhouse in Abu Dhabi that does just that. Using solar power in the form of sunlight, seawater is evaporated, condensed and used to irrigate the plants in this greenhouse, which is located in the middle of a desert.
Earn your biomimicry master’s degree or certificate online
By 2050, the global population is predicted to reach 9.8 billion, and the scarcity of food and water will be major challenges that biomimetic architecture could help solve.
- The online Master of Science in biomimicry degree from Arizona State University is a chance to dive into the complexity of nature's powers and find solutions to pressing ecological issues by applying biomimetic principles in fields such as architecture, business, education, engineering, sustainability and transportation.
- If you want want to augment a current or planned career with the nature-inspired concepts found in this discipline, consider the biomimicry graduate certificate program offered by ASU Online.